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Nexus 7 Updated
on November 19, 2012
Updated News as of November 2013:
Google has released specifications for the Second Generation Nexus 7 with the release date on July 30th 2013. Resolution has been bumped up to 1920x1200 (323 PPI!), a faster Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 (sorry, no S8) quad core processor clocking in at 1.5 GHz (vs the 1.3 Tegra 3 on the First Gen Nexus), 2 gigs of RAM, 4 times as powerful graphics chip, and a 5 megapixel back camera. Cnet is reporting that the Second Gen will have HDMI out capabilities from its micro usb port, thus implying the MHL protocols which were missing on the first generation are enabled on the Second Gen thus letting you plug your tablet into your TV to watch movies. The tablet is a bit lighter and a bit thinner than the first generation as well. Also ships with Android 4.3, the newest version. The dimpled back that so many people loved is gone replaced with a smooth surface. Still no Gorilla Glass, but now includes Dual Band Wifi and stereo speakers. Battery capacity appears to have been decreased about 400 mAh most likely to fit inside the thinner case.
Unfortunately, the price has increased. 16gb for $229, 32gb for $269 and the new LTE enabled model for $349. Unlike the First Gen series (which you are looking at), the cellular options now include Verizon in addition to the original GSM based AT&T and T-Mobile. Sprint still out of luck. As always, sold unlocked. Due to the new release, the First Gen is likely to see significant price decreases.
USB Hosting and USB OTG still works on the Nexus 7 2nd Generation.
If you're on a budget, the Nexus 7 (2012) is an excellent choice, but for $229 the Nexus 7 2nd generation also known as the Nexus 7 (2013) is a superior product. Much better processor, better graphics, better screen and lighter.
End of Update.
I've had the Nexus 7 8gb since Late August. I'll share some of my experience as well as pitfalls. The 8/16/32 Gb are functionally identical abet with a few minor difference between them, largely being the size capacities. There is also a 3G cellular version for $300 on Google Play. Remember that currently Amazon is NOT selling the Nexus 7 itself, but merely providing 3rd Party sellers a place to sell it. Occasionally Amazon takes care of the shipping, but this is not an Amazon company product. It will be cheaper elsewhere.
The 32 GB version was released on October 29th, 2012. The 8 GB version was discontinued and the 16 GB version dropped $50 in price. The 3G cellular version went on sale on November 13, 2012 only on T-Mobile and AT&T networks for $300 big ones.
A few things key to know about the 32 GB version:
Flash memory works faster the more there is up to a plateau of around 480 GBs. Benchmarks on the 32 GB Nexus 7 show a slight improvement in speed in most activities. Meaning, despite having the same parts of its smaller sized brethren, the 32 GB will see a few seconds shaved off in terms of performance. The Nexus 7 8/16 versions were plenty fast already.
Asus should have fixed many of the defects that plagued the early releases from screen separation, light bleed, bad audio plugs, etc. Sometimes it pays to wait for technology.
Not all 32 GB are free for the user. Based on the previous models, you should have around 28 to 29 GB of empty space available.
Let's address some of the perceived flaws and some of the real flaws of the Nexus 7.
1) Storage. 8/16/32gb (the three flavors the Nexus 7 comes in) can go real fast real quick in today's age of HD movies. I took my 16gb iPad on a trip and I maxed out with movies incredibly fast, even after I shrunk them down to least tolerable quality. The Nexus 7 does deserve some criticism for no Micro-SD slot and I was not going to buy it for that sole reason. However, like all good Android Tablets, there's a solution.
It's called USB On The Go. You take a USB OTG cable (like $1 here or on eBay), plug it into your Nexus 7, download the Nexus Media Importer app (Currently $3 on Google Play) and then connect whatever side hard drive or flash drive you want. The largest size external media I could connect to (and have access too) is a 3TB Western Digital. So much for 8/16/32 gig limits! The only problem I encountered with large drives is that the Media Importer app (which streams media as well as allowing one way coping to the Nexus 7) is that it crashes when you try to stream media out of folders that contain huge amounts of files, like 3,000 mp3s. Oh yeah. And this requires absolutely ZERO rooting. Take your Nexus out of the box. Download the Nexus Media Importer App. Buy the cable. Plug in your thumb drive. You're good to go.
Kickstarter recently funded a MicroUSB MicroSD reader which will allow owners of certain devices (including the Nexus 7) to access MicroSD Cards. Google "Meenova.com" for more information about when they are going to be released for the general public. This will function the same as an OTG Cable, but instead let you access MicroSD rather than USB Flash drives.
If you're cheap, you can do much of the same via Stickmount and a file manager (Stickmount requires rooting). But the Nexus Media Importer just makes it ridiculously easy. Also be aware that apps that move other apps to SD cards in other tablets will not work with this. Apps such as App 2 SD don't do anything. I tried.
As of today (11/19/12), I was able to connect a canon point and shoot, iPad 3, iPod Touch, 4 small flash drives (less than 2 GB), a 32 gb flash drive, a 1 TB and 3 TB external hard drives (Western Digital), a SD card reader (with regular and microSD via adapter) and was able to pull/stream files off all of them (FAT and NFTS formatting, no EXFAT at the moment sorry!). For some reason my old Motorola ZN5 (ancient eh?) no longer registers anymore, but as long as you plug in relatively new devices you'll be okay. An exception is I plugged in my 9 year old iRiver player and it streamed music perfectly.
Don't forget that OTG also lets you plug in and use keyboards (wired and wireless via dongle) and mice without rooting. Mice generate a cursor when plugged in. Also be aware that OTG may charge devices from your Nexus 7. For you true gamers, PS/3 controllers work as well. Not on all games, but games like Dead Trigger they'll work just like they do on a PS/3. Like to see that on a Kindle Fire or an iPad.
Speaking of that issue: Game controllers and utilities such as Sixaxis and Stickmount (among other apps) require rooting. To those who are unsure of what rooting is, rooting grants the user access to the most bottom command line access of a device. Be aware this voids your warranty, risks turning your device into a very expensive paperweight and prevents auto updating of updates over the air. I learned this the hard way. Search on the XDA developer's website how to root, but research how to do it before attempting. There are benefits and disadvantages of rooting. Make sure that you know exactly why you are rooting.
One CAVEAT to this, you have to use digital rights management free media. Mp3s are generally fine as iTunes is now selling DRM free as is Amazon. Direct downloaded movies are another story. You can also rip legitimately owned DVDs and downsize them for the Nexus. Those will play fine. Also, using other media players like DICE or BSPlayer will let you play formats that the Google Video Player doesn't like, like MKV or MTS.
2) Display. Yes, it's not an iPad 3 or 4 or a Nook HD (which by the way is gloriously beautiful). It's also less than half the price of the new iPad. Text is still crisp and clean and colors are largely well done. Not take that-iPad well done, but save yourself lots of cash well done. It's fairly responsive, not quite iPad responsive, but better than many other tablets out there. I have no complaints about it. I honestly don't think people will notice the difference between the two in sharpness and text, but it is not as good in showing colors. That said, the Nexus 7 has a better screen then the iPad Mini. Go to your local Apple store, look at the iPad 4s and then the Mini. Prepare to be shocked. It's that noticeable.
3) Camera is pretty terrible. The front facing 1.2 megapixels is nothing to get excited about. And there is no back camera. I honestly don't get why that's just a big deal. You look like a tool using the back camera. Anyone does. Even Olivia Wilde (13 on a total possible score of 10 house fans!) would look like a douche using a tablet's back camera to take video/pictures. Odds are you have your smartphone with a decent camera. Use that. There oddly though, is no app for the camera that ships with the Nexus 7. But there is a free Nexus 7 camera launcher app. One cool thing about the camera is that it does allow Face Unlock which takes a picture of your face and uses it as the unlocking mechanism for your tablet.
4) Apps. The Apple ecosystem has far more apps designed for tablets than Android does. But most of your apps, like Skype, Facebook, office utilities are all there. Furthermore, rather than being stuck on iTunes you can install Amazon's app store in addition to the preloaded Google Play store via going to the Amazon App Store, registering your email and then opening the email they send you on your tablet. It's annoying but it works. One word of caution on the Apple selling point: according to a few studies, something like 60% of all apps on iTunes (roughly 400,000) have never been downloaded which gels with the economic data showing only a relatively few app developers actually make any money.
5) No cellular connection. Fair enough, but it does have the capacity to get on to a hotspot. Meaning, just tether your smart phone. Granted, that costs money, but the fact that something like 80% of all tablets sold, Android and Apple are wi-fi only suggests that cellular connections on tablets is highly overrated. If you're one of those 8 out of 10 people who don't care about cell connections on your tablet, this shouldn't obviously matter.
The 3G cellular model available now on Google Play sells for $300. Also, does not support CDMA networks so no Verizon or Sprint. Ships with an AT&T sim card.
6) No Flash - This is technically half wrong. While Jelly Bean does not support Flash off the bat, there are FREE fixes to get flash on to your Nexus.
Google "Install Flash On Nexus 7"
The downside is you need a browser that is flash coded which includes Firefox Beta (free on Google play). It's a bit convoluted but follow the instructions and you'll have your flash games. I've posted pictures on the Nexus 7 8GB image gallery of both flash games AND streaming flash video off my Nexus 7. Flash is being phased out entirely by Adobe. It's not pretty on the nexus 7 but you can get it to work, especially if you need to stream Amazon movies.
7) No home screen rotating - Not true! Update 4.1.1 fixed this. Home screen rotates now!
Now on to other things:
Little black rectangle is lightning fast. The five core processor (yes, there are five I'll get to that later) loads things speedy without crashes and without bugs. My iPad crashes apps pretty regularly. Only once has my settings crashed but that was largely due to me screwing up my setup of my Wi-Fi extender. I can't fault the Nexus 7 for that. Speaking of which, the Nexus was super useful walking all over my house and yard to diagnosis network dead zones and other problems. 3/4 of a pound and strong Wi-Fi pick up made that job real easy, especially with free Wi-Fi apps. I could have done that with my iPad, but that would have been far less fun. Also, the Nexus 7 picks up Wi-Fi networks my iPad doesn't
Oh yes, five cores. The process actually has a fifth core that keeps basic services running when the device is in sleep mode. That saves massive amounts of energy. The battery life on the Nexus is better than my iPad without comparison even when doing the same things. The fifth core doesn't operate during normal operations. Battery life on this device is phenomenal.
On light usage, I am able to get ~195 hours before hitting 5% battery. On medium, movie watching no heavy gaming, I can regularly do ~110 hours before hitting 5%. GPS however, will eat power like nobody's business.
Speaker is pretty terrible compared to iPad. But the audio on headphones is on par. I don't expect anyone to really use the speaker so I'm not counting that as a real disadvantage.
Jelly Bean on the Nexus 7 isn't as smooth as iOS 5/6 but it is better than every other Android device that my friends and family have used (and I played around with). Jelly Bean is more smooth than iOS 5/6 on my Nexus 4 though. Hardware seems to be the difference.
The most recent update 4.2 allows multiple users accounts on the tablet (same as Nook HD) and 4.3 has added types of accounts, both full and limited. Limited allows a limited account to share the apps of a full user, thus eliminating the problem of having to buy apps multiple times. A limited account can also be limited in what apps are shared thus giving users some form of parental controls.
Because this is a Nexus device, Google is pushing out updates regularly and you don't have the problem that many Android phones have in their carrier refuses to release updates. You'll have the most recent update of Google for the foreseeable future.
What I like about the Nexus 7 is that I can largely customize anything I want. The Nexus ships with a format that is more phone than tablet, but with a Root and a few apps, I was able to switch it to the Tablet UI that you see in 10" Android tablets. I personally prefer that format but it makes icons smaller to fit it all in. Not the best for older people. But that's the great thing about Android in general. Whatever you want to change, you probably can. And the Nexus 7 is no different.
Google Voice Search is pretty awesome. It's not as good as Siri in actually reading back answers to you, most of my searches lead to a web search with links. Weather does get repeated in a Siri like female voice. Speak slowly and clearly. Or you'll get weird results. Also, phrase questions more as searches than something you'd ask a real human. Google Voice does not do well with questions like "do I need an umbrella today?" Ask "Weather forecast (your location)."Also Google Voice does not have the witty banter of Siri. For instance, asking Siri "what are you wearing" gets her to say "Why do people keep asking me that?" Google Voice doesn't do that kind of funny stuff.
GPS & Directions:
Now, in my opinion, one of the coolest things about the Nexus 7 is in the built in GPS coupled with the free cached maps. Say you're going to visit your friend who's getting married in small town in Iowa. You can either buy a GPS or bring your Nexus 7 with the map of the small town saved to memory. Turn on the GPS and it will track where you on in the town on the map real time no wifi/cell connection required. I downloaded a map of my town and tracked myself going to work. Planning your route out can easily turn the Nexus 7 into a GPS system without any additional costs.
Note, this doesn't give you turn by turn directions by itself. To get turn by turn directions you need the "NAvFree USA" (there is a Navfree for other countries) app off the Google Play store. It's free. Download your state and set your destination. It gives out voice commands on when to turn similar to a dedicated GPS device. It doesn't name street names which is expected considering it's free, but it is largely accurate saying "in 100 meters, turn right." My recent test of the app did ask me to drive over a divided highway though. As long as you pay attention though, this app coupled with the Nexus 7 will function as decent GPS offline, no wifi, no cell connection. And it even recalculates the route if you miss a turn.
Widgets are small applications that sit on your home screens showing whatever you want. Right now I have weather, Settings controls, Youtube, Facebook and Salon online magazine. It's real nice to be able to look at your screen and get all the info you need rather than having to crack open an app or a browser. This is partially why Android web usages is much lower because there's no need to go to the Web to get information when it's right on your home screen.
I previously argued that this device was awful for note taking. I take part of that back. While the screen is tiny, using a real keyboard either via OTG or Bluetooth isn't that bad after I spent a month doing it. I still suggest getting a real laptop, iPad or Galaxy Note 10.1, but this will do in a bind. There's no latency in typing like other Android products have seen. The Asus Transformer with keyboard has a real noticeable latency issue when typing so much so it's unpleasant to type. The Nexus 7 with keyboard can write as fast as you can.
A couple things I noticed:
1) Some apps will cause a restart after updating. Turning off auto-update in Google Play will speed up your device as programs are no longer sucking resources to update on their own.
2) Android itself doesn't do a very good job of reallocating resources over time. I need to restart my Nexus 7 about every two to three weeks where I can let my iPad 3 go for two to three months without restarting. It's a minor irritant.
If you're looking to jump into Android, this is the tablet to do so.
Especially if you're an Ender's Game fan.